People often ask me, “how can I stay in touch with people or get back in touch with people that I haven't seen or spoken with recently?”
Start by making a commitment to improve in this area. There’s a great Chinese proverb that I really like -- “When’s the best time to plant an Oak tree? The answer is -- 20 years ago. When’s the second best time -- now.”
So, here are seven strategies that will help you improve in this area -- now. If you can’t do them all -- do what works for you.
1. Sort through your list.
You can’t stay in touch with everyone. Who do you want to make sure to stay connected with and why? It could be personal, it could be professional, but create a list that you want to focus on.
2. Use the system they use.
It doesn’t have to be Facebook or LinkedIn -- use Pinterest or other programs, Snapchat, What’s App -- whatever they use. Each of my children use different systems. If I want to connect with them -- I need to go where they are. For my oldest daughter, it’s texting or a phone call. For my second daughter, it’s What’s App or texting. For my son, it’s an online game called Steam. I have some business associates who only reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn. Others are strictly email. The key here -- is to go where the people you want to talk to, hangout.
3. Use social media platforms.
Use social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to your advantage by sharing news and reading updates without having to reach out to people on an individual basis. Social media is fantastic. Instead of starting your next call with, “What’s new?” you can jump to, “You cut off your hair!” “You have a new job!”
4. From time to time, use snail mail.
Yes, OMG, send a letter or a card. t’s so “old school” and it’s almost guaranteed that someone will read it.
5. Skype or other instant message systems.
I’m not a big fan but -- it’s not about me, it’s about the other person. What are they using? I see many people using messaging systems online? If you want to stay connected, connect where they are.
6. Periodic phone calls.
I know, crazy idea, actually talk to people. Your smart phone has a green button -- use it. If appropriate, set up regular calls. My wife and her sister have done that for many years.
7. Face to face.
Don’t be a “cave dweller.” Nothing beats actually meeting someone face to face and having a conversation. You have to eat breakfast and lunch every day, so why not do this a few times a week with a good referral partner? You can kill two birds with one stone by strategizing with your referral partner about how to help each other over a meal.
Benign neglect is a horrible thing when it comes to building social capital. Start today to stay in touch. Pick a few of the techniques I listed above and “touch” someone. Hey now, keep it appropriate.
Ivan Misner is founder and chief visionary officer of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. He is co-author, with Hazel Walker and Frank De Raffele, of Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think (Entrepreneur Press, 2012).